At his sprawling, grill-centric restaurant in Port Washington, Elio Sobrero offers a relatively healthy menu -- only to seduce you at the end with the kind of sweets he's built a reputation on. Sobrero, who gained a following at such former Italian landmarks as Capriccio in Jericho and La Primavera in East Hills, transforms dessert from indulgence to necessity.
Early on, a big, bright mustard vinaigrette-dressed salad is set upon the table, along with the breadbasket. You don't really need an appetizer, but the briny baked clams, as well as the garlicky escargots, command attention.
With your main course come vegetables -- fresh, sauteed string beans, rice and seasoned fries that, while not house-made, are hot and crisp. They're served in bowls, to be passed around the table. The grill produces a moist barbecued chicken glazed with a tomatoey but not-too-sweet sauce. A grilled, whole Cornish hen is nicely burnished, juicy.
Requesting a pink-centered pork chop doesn't work. The thick chop, while flavorful, turns out to be uniformly beige and dry throughout. Better are pork spareribs, imbued with a hearty homestyle goodness.
Sobrero marinates a salmon steak in olive oil, herbs, white wine and garlic, grilling it medium-well and moist. He also does well with a pasta: paglia e fieno -- or hay and straw -- a mix of green and white noodles topped with a harmonious combo of fresh tomatoes and shrimp.
Among Sobrero's superb finales is a creation called chocolate velvet: a blend of bittersweet chocolate, eggs, whipped cream, rum and amaretto cookies molded together with thinly sliced pound cake. And a fresh raspberry Napoleon that layers puff pastry, whipped cream and perfect fruit. The list goes on: a meringue bombe a white chocolate mousse, tiramisu and more.
Empty calories? Not with a gratification quotient this high.